Life can be a bit trying at times. Or a lot, depending on the person. There are so many disappointments to contend with. So many dreams get tossed out or plainly forgotten because of unforeseen circumstances. I’m pretty sure everyone looks around and see all the madness going on around us. Like the story of the 22 year old Australian ball player that got murdered by three teens because they were simply bored. Then there is our own senseless disregard of the preciousness of every passing second. Every single one of us probably stop in our tracks at some point and ask themselves “what’s the point”? There are no guarantees. Especially for those of us that may not have been born in the most ideal of situations. What’s the point to getting up in the morning to do what it the end may have no real meaning. I think the point is hope. Not the kind of hope used in slogan by politicians. Not the silly hope seen in movies where the hero perseveres and the villain gets his just deserts. I’m talking about the hope to crack a great big chimp smile. Like the one you give an old friend or loved one that you have not seen in ages. The hope to be genuinely amazed by something that is so awe inspiring that it allows you to, if but for a second, to forget about the foolishness in obsessing over acquiring material wealth or climbing the social strata. I’m referring to the kind of hope that inspires you to walk through a minefield day in and day-out because you have faith that a life that is worth risking it all for awaits you on the other side.
That hope was all that I had 11 years ago. It was the thing that pushed me to get into a relationship with a girl that lived 5 states away. It was that hope that led me to reach out to my father for the first time in 3 years. I shutter at the thought about how bad it all could have turned out for me. I’m not sure if I could have recovered if things wouldn’t have worked out between the wifey and I. Luckily for me all the stars aligned just right and that part of my story had a happy ending. Sadly I couldn’t say the same about my father. But we are not at that point of the story just yet.
It was mid July 2002. My father and I were making major inroads at reestablishing a relationship after 3 years of silence. I had invited him to go see Road to Perdition with me, a film starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig and Jude Law. I was interested in seeing it because I wanted to see what a non superhero comic book movie looked like. My dad wanted to see it because it looked like a great gangster flick with big time actors.
I had traveled into the city to meet up with my dad who was living in Spanish Harlem at the time. It was a warm summer day in New York. We both felt it was a bit of a shame to spend 2 hours in a dark theater when it was so bright outside. But we paid for the tickets anyway and made our way inside.
If I had known then what I know know, I probably would have suggested another movie for us to see. Maybe something like Blade 2 would have been a bit more appropriate for the occasion. You see, Road to Perdition is a comic book movie. It also is a gangster film with a lot of great actors. But above all else, Road to Perdition is a movie about fathers and their sons. About really shitty fathers trying to do right by there not so great sons. Which for us both, it hit a little too close to home.
One of the most important things you have to do when trying to establish a relationship with someone is to suffer a bit of self induced amnesia. You try to forget or at least cover up some of the perceived transgressions that we have suffered in order to get to a better place. Once you are both standing on solid ground, then you can backtrack and go through the long list of shit-tastic events and hopefully make your peace with them once and for all. But you have to get on some sure footing first. Or your attempts of reconciliation will be sunk by the weight of anger and guilt.
When we walked out of that theater there was an awkward silence that hung between us. I could feel resentment coming up from within. My dad was silent. We were alike in many ways so I’m sure that he probably could feel what was boiling up within me. I didn’t want to ruin the day by allowing my anger to get the better of me. I knew that if I started giving the slightest hint of attitude, my father would get upset as well, and with neither at us being particularly good at defusing a volatile situation, I was sure things would escalation into an ugly argument.
I was trying to figure out how to get past what I was feeling. Even if it was only for a couple of hours until I had a clearer mind set. That was when I thought of her. I looked over to my father and said “So there is this girl that I’ve been talking to a lot lately”. He smiled. He asked me about her. I told him how I met her. About how she lived in Illinois but that we talked every day on the phone. About how I think I really, really liked her. And that I was sure that she really liked me.
We walked around the city that afternoon. Talking about this Jessica chick that had come into my life and who I was crazy about. This made my father share a couple of his love stories. About his first crush in high school. And how he and my mom had become an item. I was surprised by what he said. My father was demonstrating a romantic streak that I had failed to notice in him before. He was genuinely interested in everything I had to say about the girl. And it seemed to me that every few minutes my dad would look at me, shoot me a great big smile, and say “That’s my boy”. He was proud of me. The way he saw it I was showing that Gonzalez charm that he thought women couldn’t resist.
He asked me if I had ever met her. I told him I hadn’t. That she lived to far away and I just didn’t have the money to go see her. Before we parted ways that day, he told me, “I want you to go home and look up prices for plane, busses and train tickets for Chicago. If it’s not too expensive then maybe we can make something happen”. I didn’t want to get to excited. I’ve been let down by him on too many occasions to keep count. Yet I couldn’t help it. The thought of taking a trip to the midwest to met Jess instantly drove me crazy. I agreed. I told him I would do it that very same night.
My father walked me over to the entrance to the R train that would be taking me back to Queens. He told me he would be expecting my phone call the following day about those ticket prices. I said I definitely would, with an almost child like glee. He smiled, gave me a hug and said I’ll talk you tomorrow then you Heartbreaker you. Love you”. I told him that I loved him too, and I thanked him for wanting to make that happen for me. He told me “Anytime. You’re my first born. Never forget that.”
I went down the stairs to enter the subway station feeling as high as I could possibly get. I was going to get to see Jessica. And my father of all people was going to make this happen. I couldn’t believe my luck. All of a sudden the road I was on was paved in gold. And it lead straight to Chicago. I couldn’t wait.
Sweet Home Chicago: Part VI – My Kind of Town